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Cutting Dadoes and Grooves

Use a Router to Cut Dadoes and Grooves

You can succeed at basic woodworking with little more than a hand saw, hammer, nails and glue, but the core of the craft is joinery.


Dadoe Wood Cut

You can join parts more accurately and create a much stronger result by making specialized cuts and contours in wood surfaces. If you use the right tools and guides, you'll accomplish this in less time. A router dado jig will help when cutting dadoes.

Joinery techniques, such as dadoes, grooves, rabbets and dovetails, can be cut with a router. This invaluable tool handles precise, specialized contours when combined with interchangeable bits.

A straight-cut router bit can be used to cut a dado, which is a cross-grained, flat-bottom groove machined to accept another part, such as a shelf or a stiffening brace. Straight-cut bits are available in common fractional widths (1/4, 1/2, 3/4 of an inch, and so on); they can handle shallow and precise dadoes with a single pass and deeper or wider dadoes with multiple passes.

Project Steps

Groove Wood Cut

Straight-cut router bits also are used for cutting grooves, which are similar to dadoes except they run parallel to the grain. For accuracy, grooves typically require a long straightedge or guide, such as our Tool Guide project.

With router cuts, tear-out and splintering happen far less than they do with similar cuts using a table saw blade. Also, the bottom face of a router-cut groove is smooth and flat, resulting in a better glue bond when you fit a mating part into place. But routers have a common requirement: You must have a guide board, jig or template to control the router base so that the cutter doesn’t drift randomly off course.

Project Information

  • Skill Level: Beginner

*Time and Cost are estimated.